What is Justification?
Justification is a word that is often misunderstood. Here, Stephen March compares and contrasts righteousness and justification and their part in our salvation.
Salvation and Justification in the Bible
Along with salvation, one of the things the Bible talks about is justification. But what exactly is it? And, what does it mean when the Bible says a person is justified by faith? These are really great questions and sometimes the answers are misunderstood. First, let’s understand what salvation is.
Salvation simply means to be saved. In the Christian sense, it means to be saved from the wrath of God, which is the penalty for our sin. Jesus, the son of God who was perfect in every way and had no sin of His own, died on the cross to pay the price for our sin. The promise of God we find in the scriptures is that if we put our faith, or trust, in Jesus’ sacrificial death for our sin, then we don’t have to pay the penalty ourselves, we are saved.
Justification means to be declared right, or righteous, before God. Where Jesus’ death for us freed us from the penalty, it is through justification that we receive access into heaven. Since no sin, or sinner, can be allowed in God’s presence, we would need to be perfectly righteous in order to get into heaven. But we’re not. Jesus died for our sin, not just those we commit, our transgression, but He died for our sin nature, the part of us that causes us to go against God’s desire for us. In doing so He not only offers us freedom from our sin, but also justification. This makes sense when we think that if the penalty is taken by Christ, there is then no more outstanding crime that needs to be dealt with.
Righteous But Not Righteous
Now for the more difficult part of this question. Though we are declared righteous, we are not actually righteous. At least not in the sense that everything we do is okay or good, or that we don’t go against God’s will. We still mess up, we still sin. The only difference is that if our faith is in Christ, then that sin has been paid for. Someone once gave a definition for justification as “just as if I never sinned”, and this actually works quite well. In this definition, the use of “as if” qualifies this as a simile, and not a literal fact.
For example, if I were to say “I feel as if I can’t do anything right” most would understand that lately things haven’t been going my way, not that I am actually incapable of doing even minor tasks correctly. So when we look at this definition as it applies to justification, it allows us to understand that though I have sinned and continue to do so, because my sin has been paid for, from a punitive standpoint it is as if I haven’t sinned, I am just like someone who had no sin to atone for. We are guilty, but through faith in Christ our guilt is removed on the merits of Jesus’ death. How is this possible? Listen to what Romans 3 has to say:
Righteousness From God
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
A Way to Righteousness
Basically, the old way of recognizing righteousness was through the law, which no one could keep and therefore none would be found to be righteous. God has now provided a way to righteousness that is separate from the law, which is in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 sums this up perfectly when it says:
For our sake He made Him to be sin, who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
Based on the law, nobody can be found righteous, because we are all sinners who have violated the law. Jesus’ by His death and resurrection fulfilled every requirement of the law so that when we believe in Him, we are no longer judged according to the law, but are afforded the grace of God, through faith, to be declared righteous before God on the merits of what Christ has done. That’s justification!
If you would like to know more about how you can be justified through faith in Jesus, please contact us by email to [email protected] or by phone at 1-800-567-1218.
Stephen March is the President of FBH International and HopeStreamRadio. He graduated from the Broadcasting Program at Niagara College in 2001, and has previously worked in television production and post-production. Stephen lives in St. Catharines, Ontario, with his wife Corinne and their four children. He serves as an elder at Scottlea Gospel Chapel.
Read and hear more from Stephen Marchon his contributor’s page.
Stephen currently has 3 Programs on HopeStreamRadio:
More Podcasts You May Enjoy:
Images courtesy of:
Woman Leaning on Wall – jeffjuit
Woman Sitting on Rail – brenkee
Whiteboard – StartupStockPhotos